Pet store owners fear New York State will lose a large chunk of their profits if Gov. Kathy Hochul signs legislation banning the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in a bid to combat animal abuse.
“85 percent of our business is puppies so you’re making it illegal for pet stores to sell pets, how are they going to stay in business?” Emilio Ortiz, manager of Citipups in Chelsea, told the Post on Wednesday.
The Puppy Palace on the West Side — where newborn pooches fetch thousands of dollars — is one of dozens of stores in the five counties alone that would be affected by a future ban.
State lawmakers approved the idea by a large bipartisan majority last spring, despite dogged efforts by pet shops and their political allies to bury the proposal.
“This law would not shut down a single grower. It would just make it harder for people to get a puppy from a transparent source,” said David Boelkes, owner of The Barking Boutique in Buffalo, on Wednesday.
“We offer the addresses. We also offer [dog kennel] tours. So if people want to see the kennel for themselves, they can, but that’s also why they come to us,” he added.
A Hochul spokeswoman said the governor is currently reviewing the legislation, which would come into effect by 2024 if Hochul signs the bill before the end of the year.
Proponents say a ban — which wouldn’t apply to breeders who sell directly to New Yorkers — would push people to adopt animals from shelters, rather than buying animals bred by abusive “puppy mills,” like those who supplied a notorious Long Island store that was sued by state authorities last year.
A 2020 Humane Society investigation highlighted the links between 20 pet shops in New York and eight questionable breeders.
Banning pet stores from selling puppies, kittens and baby rabbits is one way for New York to get around the fact that many unscrupulous breeders are based outside of the Empire State, according to Rep. Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), who co-authored the bill with other animals has sponsored lover State Senator Michael Gianaris (D-Queens).
“We really have to take responsibility for those who are helpless, who don’t have a voice, and that’s the puppy mill dogs that are sold in stores for thousands of dollars,” she said.
“Every major animal rights organization supports this bill, and there are dozens and dozens of activists representing hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers,” Rosenthal added, before saying she was “optimistic” Hochul would sign the law.
Other supporters of the bill say pet stores could focus more on selling supplies than selling animals to make up for lost revenue.
“We’re not saying don’t go to responsible breeders. What we are saying is where these pet shops get their puppies from are inhumane situations. Puppy mills are inhuman. They breed animals over and over again,” said Libby Post, executive director of the New York State Animal Protection Federation.
However, dog dealers have resisted suggestions that their stores could easily change their business plans, while highlighting the efforts they have made to avoid buying animals from questionable sources.
TikTok videos of fun-loving puppies are one way Ortiz has highlighted conditions at both of Citipups’ locations while continuing to try to get Hochul to veto the bill.
“Everyone says ‘adopt, don’t shop’ until it’s time to get their dog — then they come to us,” he said Wednesday afternoon as customers eyed heart-wrenching puppies vying for their attention.
Some customers have indicated that they would rather spend thousands of dollars on a puppy from a store than adopt a pet from a shelter where they may have already developed physical or emotional problems.
“When you adopt, you want to save her. When you buy a dog, you get a fresh start,” said Lexi Rosenberg, 22, an assistant planner at a marketing media agency while playing with a male Cavapoo, which cost $3,000.
While this 9-week-old pup was too “snappy” for Rosenberg’s liking, a four-month-old Cavapoo won over a 20-year-old NYU coed named Trista, who doled out $2,495 for the pup, which she named “Apricot,” according to the cash register.
A shelter dog just wasn’t for her considering how handy it is to look at potential best friends on Citipups over a period of several weeks.
“I could have adopted, but I don’t think I would find ‘The One’ in an animal shelter,” she said.
“I know it sounds awful to say this, but there are health risks to adopting. I don’t think many first-time dog owners will have the money and time to deal with all of the health issues of shelter dogs,” added Trista.